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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration Of The Racial Undercaste

3895 words - 16 pages

Throughout the semester, we have discussed many different issues that are currently prevalent in the United States, specifically those related to racial discrimination. One specific issue that I have developed interest and research in is that of institutionalized racism, specifically in the form of mass incarceration, and what kinds of effects mass incarceration has on a community. In this paper, I will briefly examine a range of issues surrounding the mass incarceration of black and Latino males, the development of a racial undercaste because of rising incarceration rates, women and children’s involvement and roles they attain in the era of mass incarceration, and the economic importance that the prison system has due to its development.
Michelle Alexander, in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, examines the development of institutionalized racism following the war on drugs, and how it has created what Alexander calls a “New Jim Crow era,” or a racial caste in the US. Alexander describes this undercaste as, “a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society,” (Alexander, 32). Not only is this because of mass incarceration rates among black men, but extends to the effects that these branded felons must face beyond prison walls. By checking the well known box on any application, it has become legal for almost any institution or corporation to discriminate against a marked felon. Alexander notes that, “Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination – employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service – are suddenly legal,” (Alexander, 19). In great detail, Alexander reviews the history of racism in the US.
One of the most significant policy developments that created a space for institutionalized racism following the slavery era was the War on Drugs, announced by President Ronald Reagan. This declaration was surprising because at the time, most Americans were hardly, if not at all, concerned about drug problems in their communities. Instead, President Reagan had created a tool in which race in the US could be controlled, specifically through a transition from traditional policing to military style policing. But this was not the only change in policing during this time. The Reagan administration, and following it, the Clinton administration, continued their racist-driven agendas by doing such things as making cash grants to those police authorities that made it a top priority to pursue drug offenders. Essentially bribing police officers into searching out anyone with drugs, it became legal for police officers to stop and search vehicles with minor traffic violations, as well as to confiscate any belongings of the individual charged with committing a drug crime, claiming that the object...

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